Chronicle of the 1997 Nobel Laureate playwright’s formative years and experiences in his native Italy.
No ponderous discourse on the meaning of life and art from the man (b. 1926) whose body of work includes a TV drama the Catholic Church called the “most blasphemous” ever broadcast to the Italian public. Indeed, Fo’s consistent vein of socialist anti-authoritarian themes even gave the U.S. government pause about granting him a visa to perform here 20 years ago. In his memoir, however, with Farrell’s adept translation, Fo gives glimpse after revealing glimpse of the shy station-master’s son whose imagination, nurtured by caring parents and relatives, and hunger for the aura of the fabulatore—the storyteller—took him far beyond the railroad tracks of his youth. So willing were his parents to enrich his fantasy life, for example, that they encouraged him to believe that all the roof tiles in the Swiss town he could see across Lake Maggiore were made of chocolate. This gentle joke was on him, but Fo realized early on that it was far more fun telling stories when the joke was on the listener, just as his maternal grandfather, Bristìn (a nickname meaning “pepper seed”), would win over customers for his farm produce by needling them as they gathered to buy. But it was the glass-blowers, fishermen and smugglers in the international factory town of Porto Valtravaglia, where his father was reposted, who riveted him with their elaborate stories. After much examination of “the texts of medieval codices and poets,” Fo writes, “I discovered, not without some smug self satisfaction, that . . . in those writings lie the roots of every fable I learned from my story tellers.” The memoir also covers the author’s comic adventures in deserting from the fascist army in wartime by first volunteering for hazardous duty.
Pleasingly accessible picture of the faraway childhood that molded a modern artist.